Betye Saar Black Girl's Window 1969

  • Not on view

Black Girl’s Window is a pivotal work from the first decade of Saar’s career, marking the moment when her practice shifted from primarily printmaking to collage and assemblage. The work weaves together references to the private, the public, and the mystical. A salvaged weathered wooden window frame isolates and surrounds a series of nine small vignettes in the upper half of the composition. Under depictions of stars and phases of the moon are a phrenological chart, a representation of Leo (Saar’s astrological sign), a daguerreotype, and, in the center, a pair of skeletons. Below and separate from this collection of symbols is a large silhouetted figure painted on the verso of a pane of glass. Flat against a blue background and a set of sheer curtains, this figure presses up against a transparent yet rigid and unyielding surface. Its facial features are hidden in shadow, with the exception of two eyes cut from a lenslike material that creates the illusion that they open and close as the viewer moves around them.

Saar has acknowledged the self-referential nature of the assemblage: “Even at the time, I knew it was autobiographical,” she has said. “We’d had the Watts Riots and the Black revolution. Also that was the year of my divorce. So in addition to the occult subject matter there was political and also personal content.”

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Wooden window frame with paint, cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, daguerreotype, lenticular print, and plastic figurine
35 3/4 x 18 x 1 1/2" (90.8 x 45.7 x 3.8 cm)
Gift of Candace King Weir through The Modern Women's Fund, and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds
Object number
© Betye Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
Painting and Sculpture

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